Northville School Board Votes to Offer Full- and Half-Day Kindergarten
The district will also end its Wondergarten program.
In a split decision, after an at-times impassioned discussion, the Northville school board voted Tuesday to offer both full-day and half-day kindergarten classes at some elementary schools.
Nearly all of the board trustees said at the school board's meeting Tuesday night that the state has tied its hands in terms of linking a full-day requirement to state aid. The district – which currently offers only half-day kindergarten – was facing one of two options in the 2012-13 school year: lose per-pupil for continuing its half-day kindergarten program, or receive its full funding per-pupil for full-day kindergarteners and eat the costs of a half-day kindergarten program.
To be clear, the legislature-approved change to state aid does not offer more money to districts for implementing a full-day program; It means that amounts won't be reduced for those in full-day programs. And they'll only get half of the full per-pupil amount for half-day kindergarteners beginning this fall. The change, proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder, has long been touted as a way to improve the quality of Michigan schools.
The district estimates it will incur a $129,000 hit in choosing to offer both options versus offering only a full-day option.
The board voted unanimously to offer a full-day option. But the board cast a split vote when asked if the district should offer both options, or a mixed model.
Voting in favor of offering both were board president Dottie Garrity, recently appointed trustee Cyndy Jankowski, Ken Roth and James Mazurek. Voting against a mixed model were Joe Hige, Scott Craig and Anita Bartschat.
Bartschat jumped off the discussion saying that she was not able to find any research or anyone to tell her that the half-day option was more educationally beneficial for students academically than full-day.
"It comes down to parental preference," she said.
Other board members echoed her sentiments – some saying that it's important to offer options to parents, others saying the few number of parents wanting a half-day option does not justify the cost to the district.
Craig and Hige both said that the district is not in a financial position to offer both. Both said that while offering the mixed model benefits a select group of parents, it does a larger disservice to other students in the district.
"Do we have the extra $129,000 to offer this option?" Craig, who is also a teacher in Birmingham, asked his colleagues. "We do not have that luxury. He said that amount is akin to bringing two teachers back and reducing class sizes at the high school, where some classes include 38 students.
Roth told his colleagues that the variety of options for parents and students in Northville is part of what makes the district great.
In making this decision, the board will discontinue the half-day Wondergarten program. Wondergarten offered an option for children to stay in school for the other half of the school day. It cost parents an extra $18.25 per day cost, according to the district's website, and this revenue will be lost in the fall. The program has been a part of Northville's school district for more than 25 years.
In making its decision, the district surveyed the parents of 4-year-olds, who will be kindergarten students in the fall.
About 75 percent of parents surveyed said they preferred a full-time option, said Superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher. Twenty-five percent favored half-day kindergarten classes. Interest in half-day ranged from 9-35 percent in some buildings and "may not be sufficient to fill a class," she said. So it is likely not all buildings will offer half-day kindergarten classes.
The next steps she said will be to begin giving parents information about the two options. Registration is likely to begin in May.